Home      Discussion      Topics      Dictionary      Almanac
Signup       Login
Israeli nationality law

Israeli nationality law

Ask a question about 'Israeli nationality law'
Start a new discussion about 'Israeli nationality law'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum

Israel's nationality law defines the terms through which one can be granted citizenship
Citizenship is the state of being a citizen of a particular social, political, national, or human resource community. Citizenship status, under social contract theory, carries with it both rights and responsibilities...

 of the state of Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

. It also includes the Right of return for Jewish diaspora
Jewish diaspora
The Jewish diaspora is the English term used to describe the Galut גלות , or 'exile', of the Jews from the region of the Kingdom of Judah and Roman Iudaea and later emigration from wider Eretz Israel....

. Israeli law also follows jus sanguinis
Jus sanguinis
Ius sanguinis is a social policy by which citizenship is not determined by place of birth, but by having a parent who are citizens of the nation...

 as the primary mechanism through which one may obtain citizenships, rather than jus soli
Jus soli
Jus soli , also known as birthright citizenship, is a right by which nationality or citizenship can be recognized to any individual born in the territory of the related state...


Rights of citizens

  • Israeli citizens have the right to fully participate in the political system
    Political system
    A political system is a system of politics and government. It is usually compared to the legal system, economic system, cultural system, and other social systems...

     of Israel
    The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

  • Israeli citizens have the right to obtain an Israeli passport
    Israeli passport
    The Israeli passport is issued to citizens of the State of Israel for the purpose of international travel and entitles the bearer to the protection of Israel's consular officials overseas....

     and use it legally.
  • Israeli citizens have the right to travel into and out of Israel whenever they wish (Note: this right may be limited at certain times with special warrants)

Other rights are granted equally to citizens and permanent residents of Israel, among them: the right to work within Israel, the right to extenuation of tax payments, the right to a pension when needed from the social security services, and the right to vote within the scope of local ordinances. Residents who are not citizens may, however, lose their status (and thus any rights provided to them in Israel) if they move outside of Israel's borders (outside of the Green Line
Green Line (Israel)
Green Line refers to the demarcation lines set out in the 1949 Armistice Agreements between Israel and its neighbours after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War...

 including the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem
East Jerusalem
East Jerusalem or Eastern Jerusalem refer to the parts of Jerusalem captured and annexed by Jordan in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and then captured and annexed by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War...

), contrary to the privileges of citizens which enable them to re-settle in Israel at anytime.

Responsibilities of citizens

Virtually all responsibilities are imposed upon citizens and non-citizen residents of Israel equally.

A responsibility which is imposed on Israeli citizens only is the requirement to be in possession of an Israeli passport
A passport is a document, issued by a national government, which certifies, for the purpose of international travel, the identity and nationality of its holder. The elements of identity are name, date of birth, sex, and place of birth....

 at all times when outside of the country. Israeli citizens must thus have acquired a passport before being allowed to leave Israel.

Military service
Israel Defense Forces
The Israel Defense Forces , commonly known in Israel by the Hebrew acronym Tzahal , are the military forces of the State of Israel. They consist of the ground forces, air force and navy. It is the sole military wing of the Israeli security forces, and has no civilian jurisdiction within Israel...

 is legally mandatory for virtually all of Israel's citizens and residents although various exemptions can be granted. Certain ethnic groups, such as Arab Israelis, have received a blanket exemption.

An Israeli citizen is obligated to abstain from assisting a country or an organization which is defined as an enemy of Israel. Such assistance may lead to deprivation of citizenship at the advice of the Minister of Internal Affairs (in addition to a possible criminal trial).


The Law of Return
Law of Return
The Law of Return is Israeli legislation, passed on 5 July 1950, that gives Jews the right of return and settlement in Israel and gain citizenship...

 defines that all Jews possessing an Oleh
Aliyah is the immigration of Jews to the Land of Israel . It is a basic tenet of Zionist ideology. The opposite action, emigration from Israel, is referred to as yerida . The return to the Holy Land has been a Jewish aspiration since the Babylonian exile...

's certificate shall become Israel nationals
Nationality is membership of a nation or sovereign state, usually determined by their citizenship, but sometimes by ethnicity or place of residence, or based on their sense of national identity....

and allowed to immigrate to Israel. Such a certificate would almost automatically turn into Israeli citizenship upon arrival in Israel if so desired. In the 1970s the Law of Return was further expanded, and it was defined that the spouse of a Jew, the children of a Jew and their spouses, and the grandchildren of a Jew and their spouses would also be covered under the Law of Return and thus be eligible for an Oleh's certificate provided that the Jew on behalf of whom they request the certificate did not practice a religion other than Judaism willingly (he or she may, however, be a non-observant Jew). In 1999, the Supreme Court of Israel
Supreme Court of Israel
The Supreme Court is at the head of the court system and highest judicial instance in Israel. The Supreme Court sits in Jerusalem.The area of its jurisdiction is all of Israel and the Israeli-occupied territories. A ruling of the Supreme Court is binding upon every court, other than the Supreme...

 ruled that Jews or the descendants of Jews that actively practice a religion other than Judaism would not be allowed to immigrate to Israel as they would no longer be considered Jews under the provisions of the Law of Return. On April 16, 2008, the Supreme Court of Israel ruled in a case brought by a number of people with Jewish fathers and grandfathers whose applications for citizenship had been rejected on the grounds that they were Messianic Jews. The argument was made by the applicants that they had never been Jews according to halakha, and were not therefore excluded by the conversion clause. This argument was upheld in the ruling, and the government agreed to reprocess their applications.

Israeli legislators chose to make a clear distinction between the Law of Return, which allows for Jews and their descendants to immigrate to Israel, and between Israel's nationality law, which formally grants Israeli citizenship based on the Oleh's certificate. In other words, the Law of Return in and of itself does not determine Israeli citizenship; it merely allows for Jews and their eligible descendants to permanently relocate within the territory of Israel. The state of Israel does, however, grant citizenship to any applicant who immigrated to Israel via the Law of Return if the applicant so desires, though this is not mandated by the Law of Return itself.

Another important distinction should be made between Israeli citizens who live abroad and Jews who are covered under the provisions of the Law of Return. A non-Israel Jew or an eligible descendant of a non-Israel Jew needs to request approval to immigrate to Israel, a request which can be denied for a variety of reasons including (but not limited to): possession of a criminal record, currently infected with a contagious disease, or otherwise viewed as a threat to Israeli society. Israeli citizens on the other hand are allowed to travel within the borders of Israel whenever they so desire without limitation. Israeli citizens are also the only persons allowed to obtain an Israeli passport. Eligible applicants under the Law of Return have no claim to any of the rights or privileges of an Israeli citizen unless they are formally cleared by the government, given an Oleh's certificate, and granted Israeli citizenship. This is possible after one year of residency in Israel under the Oleh's certificate. New arrivals making Aliyah (return to Israel) are issued an Israeli Travel Document during this year, after which they can apply for citizenship.


Citizenship by residence was intended for non-Jewish denizens of the British Mandate of Palestine
Palestine (mandate)
The British Mandate for Palestine, also known as the Palestine Mandate, The British Mandate of Palestine and the Mandate for Palestine, was a legal commission for the administration of Palestine, the draft of which was formally confirmed by the Council of the League of Nations on 24 July 1922 and...

 (Arabs, Druze, Bedouins, etc.) who were considered to be associated with Palestine during the period immediately prior to the 1948 Arab-Israeli War
1948 Arab-Israeli War
The 1948 Arab–Israeli War, known to Israelis as the War of Independence or War of Liberation The war commenced after the termination of the British Mandate for Palestine and the creation of an independent Israel at midnight on 14 May 1948 when, following a period of civil war, Arab armies invaded...

. Such denizens who were still within the territorial confines of Israel after the war were granted full Israeli citizenship. In order to determine who was eligible for citizenship under this provision, the state of Israel conducted a population registration in 1952 and again in the 1980s. Those found to meet the requirements obtained Israeli citizenship. For purposes regarding modern Israeli citizenship, this section is usually irrelevant.


A child born to an Israeli citizen (including children born outside of Israel as first generation out of Israel) is considered an Israeli citizen. Persons born outside Israel are Israeli citizens, if their father or mother holds Israeli citizenship, acquired either by birth in Israel, according to the Law of Return, by residence, or by naturalization.
In other words, the principle of jus sanguinis
Jus sanguinis
Ius sanguinis is a social policy by which citizenship is not determined by place of birth, but by having a parent who are citizens of the nation...

 is limited to only one generation born abroad. Despite this limitation, the descendants of an Israeli national abroad can obtain Israeli citizenship through other methods, such as the Law of Return, if they are eligible.


Adults may acquire Israeli citizenship through naturalization. To be eligible for naturalization, a person must have resided in Israel for three years out of the previous five years. In addition, the applicant must have a right to reside in Israel on a permanent basis. All naturalization requests are, however, at the discretion of the Minister of the Interior.

Cancellation of citizenships

There are cases in which the state can initiate a cancellation of a citizenship of an Israeli citizen. Article 11 of the Israeli nationality law establishes three circumstances for which a citizenship would be revoked by the state:
  • If the person entered a state which is considered an enemy state or if he got a citizenship at the enemy state.
  • If the person committed an act which is considered a breach of loyalty to the country.
  • If the person's citizenship was given to him/her on the basis of false information. In such a case, the revocation might apply even to the citizenship of the person's children.

Furthermore, an Israeli citizen who wants to renounce his/her citizenship can address the Israeli Interior Minister in writing and ask for it to be done. Nevertheless, the final decision would be up to the Interior minister to make, and he can also refuse the application, according to his own discretion. The policy of the Interior ministry has so far made it difficult for people to give up citizenship, requiring them, among other things, to prove that they have been living outside of the state of Israel for a long time.

Dual citizenship

Israel allows citizens to hold foreign citizenships in addition to their Israeli citizenship, a situation known as dual (or multiple) citizenship
Multiple citizenship
Multiple citizenship is a status in which a person is concurrently regarded as a citizen under the laws of more than one state. Multiple citizenships exist because different countries use different, and not necessarily mutually exclusive, citizenship requirements...


For example, a citizen of Israel who also has a foreign citizenship is considered a foreign citizen in accordance to the Israeli Security Service Law and is subject to a mandatory military service according to that law; he is considered a citizen of Israel regarding the criminal liability of Israeli civilians according to the Israeli Penal Law; and he is considered a citizen of Israel according to the Israeli laws of personal status, such as the authority jurisdiction of the rabbinical courts in the matters of marriages and divorces, according to the Israeli Rabinical courts jurisdictions law.

Regarding entrance to Israel, staying in Israel and working in Israel, an Israeli citizen which also possesses a foreign citizenship is considered an Israeli citizen for all purposes. Therefore, he is entitled to enter Israel without a need of a visa
Visa (document)
A visa is a document showing that a person is authorized to enter the territory for which it was issued, subject to permission of an immigration official at the time of actual entry. The authorization may be a document, but more commonly it is a stamp endorsed in the applicant's passport...

, stay in Israel according to his own desire, engage in any profession and work with each employer according to the provisions of the Israeli law.

An exception to the permission of holding dual citizenship was determined in the additional law added to the Basic Law: the Knesset (חוק יסוד: הכנסת) (Article 16A) according to which Knesset members would not be able to pledge allegiance unless they have revoked their additional citizenship, if that would be possible according to laws of that country.

External links